Imagine sitting on a bench near a stream in the peaceful countryside. The water gurgles over the stones, creating a calming soundtrack. You can hear the rustling of the trees and the chirping of birds in the distance. You take a deep breath and smell the sweet scent of wildflowers all around you. The sun is warm on your face, and you feel a sense of peace and contentment. For this moment, you are simply present, enjoying life, away from the noisy city life.
For Cape Town artist Gengezi Babu-Yuze, nothing is more rejuvenating than a holiday in the countryside. Getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city allows her to relax and reconnect with nature, which she finds therapeutic.
When planning a holiday, she purposefully chooses rural locations with minimal internet access, so she can disconnect from the online world and focus on the beauty of her surroundings. For Babu-Yuze, the fresh air and slower pace of rural life are the perfect antidote to the stresses of city life.
Babu-Yuze says holidays in the countryside have a positive impact on her mental and physical health, and her partner sees this as well. He encourages her to take more of these trips, as he can see the difference, they make in her energy levels and outlook on life.
Nature is heritage and a spiritual connection
The creative and spiritual Vuyokazi Ngemntu has found that a rural holiday brings out the best in her. The peace of the countryside are in stark contrast to her daily life in Nyanga, Cape Town. She believes that rural holidays have the power to rekindle cultural practices that have been forgotten in the city.
For her, these trips are a chance to recharge and reconnect with her authentic self.
“African culture reveres all elders as holding a proxy role in the absence of one’s parents, for instance, which promotes politeness and good behaviour in the young through a system of accountability.”
According to her, spending time in nature and connecting with a community of like-minded people can help heal the emotional and spiritual wounds caused by urban life and historical injustices. This can lead to improved well-being for individuals and families living in urban environments.
Ungazincishi: go out there and live
Dr Jude Clark, a clinical psychologist from Kleinmond, a small coastal town outside Cape Town, believes that the environment we live in has a significant impact on our physical and mental health. While cities can be exciting, they can also be stressful and overwhelming.
In contrast, rural areas can be refreshing and calming, offering a break from the fast-paced city life. This is why a weekend in the countryside can be so beneficial for our overall well-being.
Psychologically, escaping the city could also be beneficial, she says.
“The city puts the brain on high alert because of the range and intensity of stimuli, one could even argue, that it is an overstimulation – of sounds, sights, movement, colours, decisions, everywhere, all the time.”
Nature has a role in healing
According to Clark, spending time in nature has been proven to have several health benefits, including stress reduction, improved mood, and a stronger immune system. She suggests that a weekend away from the city can help people reset and recharge, making it easier to return to the busy urban environment feeling refreshed and ready to tackle whatever life throws at them.
“Being in nature reduces blood pressure, decreases the heart rate, reduces muscle tension and boosts the immune system.”
Clark believes that the stressful urban environment can hurt our well-being in several ways. She says that continuous exposure to tension and stress through personal experiences, or (due to high levels of crime) can be damaging to our health.
As Clark describes, time spent in nature is good for both our physical and mental health. Walking in natural environments like forests, and parks, or even just looking at a pleasant view can help reduce our stress levels. In these environments, our senses are stimulated by natural elements such as running water, the sound of birdsong, and the sight of trees and flowers. This stimulation results in a decrease in stress hormones and a corresponding improvement in our well-being.
“All these activities ‘ground’ a person, which means we have more resources (physical, mental and spiritual), that help us feel stable, think, be introspective, and make good decisions.”
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